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Chris Elliott, Brady Bluhm, Elinor Donahue, Brian Doyle-Murray, Bob Elliott, Taylor Fry, Robin Riker, Sam Robards

America's Favorite Psycho
Not Rated.

Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Surround
Not closed-captioned

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $19.95
Release Date: 9/17/2002

• Interview with Producer/Director David Mirkin
• Non-Laugh Track Version
• Cast/Crew Filmographies


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Get a Life: Volume 2

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

In the “it’s about time” category, we find Volume 2 of Get a Life. The first package of four episodes appeared way back in March 2000. Volume 2 was slated to come out in late 2001, and apparently a few copies did make it onto retail shelves. However, Rhino recalled most of them and delayed the release indefinitely.

This set finally hit stores in September 2002. As with the first DVD, this one haphazardly combines a mix of episodes, though unlike Volume 1, this package only features shows from Season One. Volume 1 provided two from Season One and two from Season Two, which caused some confusion due to character variations.

However, that doesn’t mean that the Season One shows on Volume 2 seem totally clear-cut. As I noted in my review of Volume 1, I barely watched Get a Life during its run in the early Nineties, and outside of lead character Chris Peterson (Chris Elliott) and his parents (played by his real-life dad Bob Elliott and actress Elinor Donahue from Father Knows Best), I didn’t know who anyone else was supposed to be. That became more problematic in the Season Two episodes, when Chris moved in with some guy named Gus.

Those concerns seemed smaller in Volume Two with its concentration on Season One shows, but they still occurred, especially in the DVD’s first episode, Zoo Animals On Wheels (the 10th program to air, first broadcast 12/16/90). On this show, Chris decides to try out for the community production of “Zoo Animals On Wheels”, the “classic” Broadway production by ever-popular Andrew Todd Keller. Chris’ presence irritates lead actress Sharon (Robin Riker), who clearly dislikes him. However, the show’s director (Craig Richard Nelson) thinks Chris shows talent and he casts our boy in the lead. After Sharon and fellow actor Jason (Martin Grey) insult Chris, however, he runs and hides. The director forces Sharon to swallow her pride and beg Chris to return. To remain in the musical she does so, and the episode climaxes with a depiction of the show’s debut.

While I’m always up for something that mocks the miserable “talent” that is Andrew Lloyd Webber, “Wheels” offers only a sporadically entertaining piece. Frankly, Webber spoofs are almost too easy to do. He basically parodies himself with his inane musicals, so where can you go from there? Nonetheless, it’s fun to see Chris try to act, and the show provides some decent laughs, although I think it’s the weakest of the four episodes on Volume 2.

“Zoo Animals” spotlights the problems with the varied release pattern of these episodes. Since Volume 2 starts with the series’ 10th show, we’ve not gotten any introduction to the characters. This mainly affects our understanding of Sharon. Sure, I could tell she hated Chris, but I didn’t know anything of their history. In fact, I didn’t figure out that she and husband Larry (Sam Robards) were supposed to be the Petersons’ neighbors until I watched the DVD’s extras! At times like these, I really wish either Rhino put out full season sets or they at least had released the episodes chronologically. No, I didn’t need to know that Sharon lived next door to Chris to enjoy the programs, but it wouldn’t hurt to have that knowledge.

Trivia note: Debi Derryberry may not look familiar, but some folks will know her voice. She plays the title character in Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.

In Married (aired 16th, 3/24/91), Chris learns that supermodel Nicolette (Deborah Shelton) will appear at a local store. He believes that the two are soulmates and goes to proclaim his love for her. Shockingly, she agrees with his conclusions, and the pair run off together. After a ride on a speedboat, they meet Chris’ parents and then get hitched. Once they consummate their vows, things start to go wrong (just like in real life!) and they grow apart. Chris cheats on Nicolette and they get divorced. Oh yeah – all this happens in the span of one day.

Although “Married” suffered somewhat from that overly contrived notion, it still offered a pretty amusing program. If just because it spanned so many emotions and situations, it provided an entertaining piece. Shelton can’t act, but the show nonetheless stood out as one of the better ones on this disc.

During The Big City (aired 19th, 4/21/91), Chris uses his savings to take a trip to the unspecified “Big City”. Once he gets these, we see he’s essentially gone to New York of the early Fifties. Just as his mother predicted, a number of elements try to corrupt him. When a guy slips him a mickey, Chris apparently loses his wallet. Local reporter May Evans (Anastasia Barzee) runs his story as a human interest piece, and “Walletboy” becomes the toast of the town. Chris enjoys his fame and even hooks up with sexy May. It all crashes down when his mother calls and indicates Chris simply left his wallet at home.

While my gripes about the non-sequential presentation of Life occur mainly because of the confusion they cause, “City” points out another potential problem: redundancy. Things occur to Chris very rapidly in “City”, which makes it seem a lot like “Married”. Of course, the episodes work very differently in other ways, but that one aspect feels a little too similar so soon. Had the shows come in broadcast order, we’d have seen two other programs between them, which would have averted this issue. As its stands, “City” provides some good material, but it falls a little flat when it comes right after “Married”.

The best of the bunch comes last on this DVD with Neptune 2000 (aired 20th, 4/28/91). Also the simplest of the four shows, “Neptune” starts with a flashback to 1971. On Chris’ birthday, he decides to get a paper route to buy a $19.99 personal submarine called the Neptune 2000. It takes 20 years for it to arrive, but when it does, it offers the opportunity for Chris and his dad to bond. (Chris failed to properly assemble the thing on his own.) Once they complete the package, they test it in Chris’ apparently enormous bathtub. Unfortunately, they get stuck in it and come close to death while trapped inside of the vessel.

The elder Elliott couldn’t act worth a darn, but his innate comic timing carried him well, and it’s always a hoot to see the real-life father and son interact, especially since Chris’ dad offers probably the least sentimental parent ever to grace the TV screen. Most of “Neptune” takes place inside of the sub, and this makes it all the more entertaining. After the gimmicky aspects of the other three episodes, it’s fun to pare down the comedy to its basics, and both Elliotts seem up to the task. Toss in some incongruous but hilarious nods to both Jaws and The Godfather and “Neptune 2000” emerges as the best of Volume 2.

Overall, I remain entertained by Get a Life but still somewhat cool toward the show. As I noted when I reviewed Volume 1, I’ve been a Chris Elliott fan for years, but I never really got into Life. Most shows – especially comedies – require a few years to really get good, so perhaps Life would have been something truly special had it lasted past 35 episodes. We’ll never know. In any case, the four shows on Volume 2 offer some reasonably good laughs, though I remain unenthusiastic about the series.

The DVD Grades: Picture D+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C

Get A Life appears in its original televised aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The original DVD didn’t present a strong picture, and the same went for Volume 2.

For the most part, the episodes seemed somewhat soft. This fuzziness didn’t seem horrific, but the shows demonstrated a moderately gauzy look much of the time. The programs appeared slightly crisper than those seen on the Volume 1 DVD, but the differences appeared minor. Definition remained weak, as the shows took on a hazy look much of the time.

Unfortunately, the whole package displayed an edgy, shimmery appearance that became a distraction. No obvious source flaws showed up other than video artifacting. That gave the episodes a rather grainy look much of the time.

Colors tended to be adequate but they seemed somewhat bland and dull. Shin tones often looked rather pinkish as well, and the hues never became better than passable; most of the time, they were flat and muddy. In the same vein, black levels appeared drab and inky, while shadow detail was decent at best.

Of the four episodes, “Zoo Animals” provided the strongest image. It displayed all of the concerns mentioned above, but it minimized them better than any of the other three programs. On the other hand, “The Big City” looked worst of the bunch, largely due to its use of special effects. Many shots superimposed actors on pre-shot backgrounds, and that technique added to the various problems. As with the first DVD release, Volume 2 of Get a Life seemed watchable but nothing more than that.

Also along the same lines as Volume 1, this package of Get a Life episodes offered decent but unexceptional Dolby Surround 2.0 audio. Granted, the sound seemed much better than the visuals, but it didn’t really excel. For all intents and purposes, the shows offered a pretty monaural mix. Virtually everything emanated from the center channel except for the occasional songs and score. I felt surprised to encounter any of the latter cues, for the four episodes on Volume 1 included no music other than pop songs like REM’s “Stand” during the opening credits or Lulu’s "To Sir With Love" and the Animotion's "Obsession". Not much music popped up during Volume 2, but we did find some, which altered the formula heard on Volume 1.

The tunes came from the three front speakers and also a little from the rears and they definitely offered the highlights of the mix. The music generally sounded pretty bright and accurate. I wouldn't call the music quality fantastic but it seemed pretty good, without any noticeable concerns. Dialogue appeared largely natural and intelligible, though speech often features some brittle and edgy tones at times. Overall, effects sounded solidly sharp and satisfying, and the whole track may seem very basic but it worked well for the material.

You can watch all four episodes with or without a laugh track. I preferred the versions without the added audio, as I dislike laugh tracks, and the sound quality of each edition otherwise seemed identical. The only drawback to the track-less audio came from the fact there are still some laughs on there; we occasionally heard crewmembers snicker. This could be a bit distracting but it's still not as annoying as a full laugh track, so I'll take it.

More annoyingly, Get a Life features absolutely no text along with the episodes. We find no subtitles in any language and no closed-captioning. The omission of any form of text just seems cheap and inconsiderate to me; it’s really inexcusable in this day and age. One nice touch about the presentation, though: if you let the episodes run, they’ll play straight through, so you don’t need to return to the main menu to access the next one.

As far as supplements go, there's not a whole lot here. The prime attraction comes from an “extensive” interview with executive producer/director David Mirkin. This piece lasts for 27 minutes and 47 seconds and consists solely of shots of Mirkin. Hey, remove the quotes – that actually is pretty extensive! Some may dislike the “talking heads” presentation, but it doesn’t bother me, and Mirkin offers lots of great remarks. He covers the origins of the programs and details the struggles they had with the studio, which clearly didn’t “get” the show. Mirkin also discusses other production challenges and gets into the program’s legacy. Overall, Mirkin offers a chatty and engaging interview that brings us a lot of nice notes.

In addition, the DVD provides some filmographies. We find entries for actors Chris Elliott, Bob Elliott, Elinor Donahue, Robin Riker, and Sam Robards, executive producer/director David Mirkin, and writers Adam Resnick and Marjorie Gross.

From Pink Lady… and Jeff to Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, Rhino offers a haven for obscure, largely forgotten TV shows on DVD, and more power to them. It seems really cool that they’re willing to take chances with such cult items, and although I can’t say I’m wild about Get a Life, I think it’s terrific I can get some of its episodes on DVD. The DVD features relatively decent audio but includes a pretty poor picture and few supplements.

Despite those concerns, I found Life interesting enough to warrant a recommendation to other Chris Elliott fans; for such folks - or for others curious about his appeal - Life at least merits a rental. This package’s biggest drawback stems from the haphazard conglomeration of episodes; I’d really prefer to see full season sets. Nonetheless, any form of release for Get a Life continues to surprise me, and Volume 2 should find a cult of happy fans.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 8
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